Indonesia is a sprawling country. This is telling you all about Indonesia, my beloved country. It’s hard to think of Indonesia as a single nation. This is like a gargantuan tree with branches that extend out to the various parts of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
I’ve told you that there are a lot of branches to the Indonesian tree. As we know, Indonesia is comprised of of 17,508 islands extending 5,150 kilometers or 3,200 miles east to west in Southeast Asia and Oceania. The islands cover about 1,919,440 square kilometers and make Indonesia as the world’s 16th largest country in terms of land area. In 17,508 islands, only 6,000 of them are currently inhabited. Wow… It is amazing isn’t it? Because we have so many islands, it’s not hard to see how Indonesia got the name. The name of Indonesia comes from the word Indus which derived from the Latin name for the land beyond the Indus river, and the Greek for the word nèsos has the meaning as island.
The largest Indonesian islands are Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), Sulawesi, and the Indonesian part of New Guinea (known as Papua or Irian Jaya). Click here for an easy guide to Indonesia’s islands.
The official language of my country is ‘Bahasa Indonesia.’ There are also several hundred local languages, such as Javanese, Sundanese, Betawi, balinese and many others. Most of us speak our ethnic language as our mother tongue as well and the official language is Bahasa Indonesia.
Religion in Indonesia
Indonesia is the largest Islamic country in the world but the government officially recognizes five other religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Protestantism, Catholicism, and Confucianism.
Climate and geography
Indonesia is one of the most geologically interesting country on Earth. There are over 400 volcanic mountains that exist in the islands around. That islands have a huge impact to both the Australian and Pacific tectonic plate as well. The Australian plate changes and moves slowly upwards into the small part of the Pacific plate which moves southward. The islands are stretched out between the lines of that two plates.
This interesting condition makes Indonesia becomes the one of the most changing geological areas in the world. Indonesia has three vibrations per day, at least one earthquake in every day, and one volcanic eruption in every year. Indonesia also has of two famous 19th century volcanic eruptions. They are Tambora and Krakatau. Even there was the epicenter of the 2004 Southeast Asian tsunami in Aceh region Sumatra island.
Indonesia has a range of 1,919,000 square kilometers and shares land borders with other countries like Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor. Even it has unique and rich cultural diversity.
Indonesia as tropical area only has two seasons, they are summer and rainy. For the high mountain peaks can get quite cool. However, the year is divided into a wet and a dry because Indonesia is located at the equator site. The coastal areas stay steady at the mid to upper 20s Celsius or low to mid 80s Fahrenheit along the years.
History and Culture
Indonesia is full of history and fascinating. The majority of Indonesia population is made up from austronesian who originally migrated to South East Asia or Taiwan. They arrived in Indonesia about 2,000 BC and spread fast throughout the archipelago then pushing the indigenous Melanesian people to the far eastern regions.
Trade contracts brought outside cultural and religious influences to Indonesia. That is from India, China, also from mainland Southeast Asia. Starting around 7th century, the powerful Srivijaya kingdom flourished as the Hindu and Buddhist influences that were imported into Indonesia along with traded goods. Srivijaya was first Indian-ized empires and grew up in Sumatra, serving as the trading network that reached to many parts of the archipelago on that time.
On neighboring to Java, the Buddhish Sailendra and Hindu Mataram dynasties declined and leaving behind vestiges of grand religious monuments such as biggest Buddist temple of Borobudur and Mataram’s Hindust temple of Prambanan.
Although the beginning of Islamic influences dates back to the 8th, but the earliest evidence of Islamized populations is not found until the time around 13th century. In past, Marco Polo visited Northern Sumatra at the end 13th century then the first Islamic states were already established there. Indonesia is now becomes the largest Islamic nation in the world.
At the same time, Indonesia spices is attracted to the attention of European traders. Firstly, Portuguese merchants came to the trading port of Malacca in 1511. They were looking for spices such as cloves, nutmeg and mace as well. The spices has rumor can cure everything from the plague to venereal disease were literally worth their weight in gold. Even the Portuguese tried to monopolize the sources of the spices. Then Dutch and British traders soon followed.
Finally, the Dutch won and overtook the spice trade in Indonesia. The Dutch East India Company (VOC) soon established a spice monopoly around 18th century until the VOC’s got bankruptcy and formal dissolution. Then the Netherlands stepped in and established Indonesia as a Dutch colony. Around the 19th century, Dutch was cultivating sugar and coffee on the java island, which was soon providing for 3/4s of the world supply.
The Dutch ruled Indonesia during three centuries, but around the 20th century Indonesian people more than ready to get independence. It happened behind of the World War II and the Japanese occupation of Indonesia. But It lasted from 1942 to the end of 1945 for Japanese.
Because the Netherlands was under German occupation, it had little ability to defend its colony from the Japanese army and less than 3 months after Japan’s initial attacks on Borneo, the Japanese ran the Dutch forces out of Indonesia. Most of the Indonesians welcomed the Japanese, seeing them as liberators from their Dutch colonial masters, but the optimistic sentiment soon changed as Indonesians were expected to endure even more hardship for the war effort.
Still, the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, which lasted from 1942 to the end of WWII in 1945, marked a critical turning point in Indonesian history.
Indonesia now has over 300 ethnic groups with cultural identities developed over centuries and influenced by all the cultures. They have been present in Indonesia throughout its rich and diverse history such as Indian, Arabic, Chinese, and European.
You can find all of the influences throughout Indonesia. Foe example Traditional Javanese and Balinese dances that contain aspects of Hindu culture and it’s mythology. Even the current legal system is based on the old Dutch penal code. Many Dutch words have managed their way into the Indonesian language. The art, music and culture of Indonesia shows influence from the East, the Middle East, and Europe as well.
It’s no wonder Indonesia has national motto such as “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” that literally for the word “many, yet one” also a reflection of their belief in “unity in diversity.”